There are numerous cosmogonic references in cuneiform sources that reflect the different theological themes of individual cult centers. A common theme is the notion that an undifferentiated and watery universe became separated into distinct pairs of opposites. At Eridu, home of the water deity Enki, the primordial substance was composed of the mingled sweet and salty waters that begat a third creative (female) element, which in turn produced Heaven (SumerianAn) and Earth (Sumerian Ki). At Nippur, the separation of Heaven and Earth, the god Enlil presides over the creation of the heavenly bodies and the organization of the world.
   The best-known creation myth is known by its Babylonian name as enuma elish (“when above”). It builds on earlier cosmogonies and assigns the role of creator to Marduk. This text also presents a theme of intergenerational violence that may have been a north Syrian or Hurrian influence. The older divine couples are disturbed by the noise of their offspring and plot their destruction. The younger gods appoint Ea to defend them, but he fails and so they invest the son of Ea, Marduk, with magic powers to meet the challenge. He succeeds in defeating the primeval but now monstrous creator goddess Tiamat. He slices her body in half, fixes the upper part to hold up the sky, and fashions the lower part into the Earth. The Tigris and Euphrates rivers flow from her eye sockets; her tail becomes a plug to hold back the subterranean waters. Marduk also fixes the planets and stars on the upper heaven and decrees their paths. He fashions man from mud mixed with the blood of Kingu, the general of Tiamat’s army. In gratitude, the gods confer on Marduk the kingship, and he establishes Babylon as his dwelling place on Earth.
   The Creation of Mankind in older sources is attributed to mother goddesses who collaborate with a divine culture hero (Ea-Enki) who mingles clay with the breath (or the blood) of a god. The destiny imposed on humankind is the service of the gods, especially the backbreaking tasks of maintaining the irrigation system, and mortality.
   See also RELIGION.

Historical Dictionary of Mesopotamia. . 2012.

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